Layers of Fantastic Reality in The World God Only Knows

First off, my apologies for not updating sooner. The past week has been really busy. Sorry!

Last week I decided to start a new anime, and found The World God Only Knows on Crunchyroll.com. Almost immediately I was rolling in laughter at the ridiculous levels of “reality” in this series.

The premise of the series is that Keima is a dating sims fanatic, who only cares for what he sees as the perfect reality and perfect girls within the dating games he plays. He is an outcast, and the laughing stock of the class. Yet, within the realm of dating sims he is renowned as a god, and fellow players constantly ask him for tips and advice. One day he receives a challenge to capture the heart of a girl, which he promptly accepts. At this point a cute demon, Elsie, comes down out of the sky to inform him that he has entered himself into a contract with the devil. According to the contract he must force stray evil spirits out of the hearts of young girls by replacing that space they occupy with love, which is most easily done by kissing the girl.

In short, it’s the story of an otaku who is only capable of (and only interested in) capturing the hearts of virtual heroines, being forced to capture the heart of real girls. There is a assumed disconnect by the reader between virtual courting and real courting, and yet the otaku is forced on penalty of death to capture the hearts of “real” girls.

In actuality, the issue with the real girls, and with reality in general in The World God Only Knows, is that they’re not real at all. Not even vaguely. In fact, the completely impracticable courting techniques, and the ridiculous, simplistic, and possibly offensive stereotypes that dating sims are based on are all valid in the “reality” of this anime. Rather that showing the audience the comic failure of the otaku in his attempts to use dating sim techniques on real girls, we are shown the even more comic success of his techniques. All this is possible only in a anime whose reality is less real than the dating sims themselves.

In one episode he attempts to carry one girl around in a steam train he’s pulling with his bike. In another, a girl becomes translucent.

In this impossible reality, he gets the girls to kiss him by stereotyping them, allowing him to plan his actions as he would for the same character type in one of his games. Yet, although he always (as of the 5 episodes I’ve seen) manages to get the girl, they never remember him once he loosens the evil spirits from their hearts. There is no real change in the girls, either. While it is possible that the loose spirits make them angrier or sadder, the change in the girls is so far rather negligible. It even seems as though the entire event might as well not have happened. Except for the factor of domination.

Keima is able to almost instantly package each of the girls into a nice, simple category. From that point, it’s just a couple of simple steps, with no emotional involvement on his part, and the girl falls for him. Each girl is just one on a list. Behind the comic nature of this anime, there is a strong undertone of misogyny. Women can be easily split into categories, and if you play your cards right they will soon be falling head over heals for you. The end theme particularly speaks to this, with a number of the girls Keima has dominated painting a giant portrait of Keima together, using their bodies as brushes.

There is another way to look at this, though. The factor of the girl’s forgetting their feelings for Keima, combined with their disgust for him both before and after, and the reader’s knowledge that the only reason Keima is successful is because the “real world” is not in fact real, work as a statement on Keima. In a world filled with real girls, as opposed to the idol, former heiress to a fortune, track start, etc. who are the heroines of this anime, Keima could never find a girl. If this story was in fact a story about a dating sim otaku who has to get real girls to kiss him, there would be little to write the story on: he would almost certainly fail.

Whether this anime ends up as a statement on the simplicity and ease of domination of women, or as a statement on the disconnect between otaku and reality, it remains that this anime is clever, hilarious, and a general good watch. Perhaps as the series progresses we will see more of the themes underlying this domination, but in the mean time I intend to continue watching it.

Thanks to my friend Charles who spent time discussing the underlying dialogues within the series with me, parts of which made it into the above writing. ^.^

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One Response to Layers of Fantastic Reality in The World God Only Knows

  1. This comment was written in response to a reader’s comment on how I expressed that I enjoy watching the series despite all of the issues in its representation of women. I’m posting it here in case anyone else was wondering. ^.^ Their interesting review of the first episode can be found here: http://s1e1.com/2010/11/the-world-god-only-knows-first-episode-review.html

    “Hi! I’m the author of Painting Worlds with Words. First off, thank you for reading my post, it means a lot to me having just started out. ^.^

    In response to your comment on how I still like the show, I think I enjoy it primarily because of the total lack of realism. The girls are actually more so objects in this show’s “reality” than are the video game girls to Keima. To him at least the video game girls have hearts and souls worth saving, desiring, and pursuing. The “real” girls don’t even hold this form him, and become purely an object of conquest.

    Yet, this would be far more disturbing if anything about the series was realistic. As it is, nothing at all makes sense if you try to think about it for more than a couple of moments. “Reality” has become the fantasy and the video games by comparison are realistic. It is only because of this that Keima’s domination is successful.

    Perhaps this is all an otaku’s fantasy then, in which the only thing real is the video game and the girl within it who remains unobtainable (as with the one dating sim he can’t beat). Reality becomes reimagined as a space in which nothing makes sense and all girls are easy and pliable, with the only thing worthy of attainment being within the world of the game. Keima’s vision of reality must be so twisted because otherwise the world of the sims in which he lives would be as the general populace sees it: lacking the value of true relationships and true accomplishments.

    Yet, it is precisely because the girls are unrealistic and the world doesn’t make sense that the misogynistic undertones of the anime are rendered harmless and comic for me. If reality were to attempt to be realistic it would cause an outcry, but the nonreality of the animated world does not attempt to recreate reality in anything more than name, which likely allows the quite possibly offensive themes of this anime to be comic.

    I hope that sort-of-kind-of-maybe makes sense. ^.^”

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